I have traveled internationally before. Let’s see, I went to Aruba for a family vacation. I studied abroad in Spain for a summer. I flew to the Domincan Republic for spring break, the Bahamas for a work trip, and Grenada to volunteer and visit a dear friend in the Peace Corps. These trips have granted me a nice little collection of stamps in my passport.
India, however, is my international game-changer. I am not in a bikini sipping a Strawberry Daiquiri in Aruba. I am not ordering cerveza and chupitos at a club in Spain. I am not on top of my friend’s shoulders in a pool filled with twenty-something’s, listening to hearty bass accompanied by house music in the Domincan Republic. I am not ordering sushi and steak and espresso martinis at a five star resort in the Bahamas. I am not eating fresh fruit like mangoes and avocados on a paradise island off of Grenada called Carriacou.
What I am doing is experiencing international travel with a new lens. I am covering my arms and my chest with scarves and saris. I am wearing long dresses that flow past my knees. I am closing my mouth tightly when I shower and using mouthwash instead of water while brushing my teeth. I am aware of the placement of my purse at all times. I am witnessing poverty like I have never seen before. I am being approached and pulled at by small, innocent children, who call me “Mommy,” or hold puppies when begging me for rupees. I am observing trash piles and dirt mounds and sidewalk-hydrant-baths and dogs unphased by the mighty bump from a taxi cab.
This trip is different than any trip I have ever been on for so many reasons. There is an unbelievable and unfathomable way of life that exists outside of that poolside, all-inclusive vacation. There is a reality off of the resort. But, with all that I am experiencing here in India, this time around, I know that I am gaining something much more than a bundle of tropical selfies and a solid tan. What I am getting here is not polished, is not perfect, does not meet my every need. But, it is real and authentic. And right now that’s what I need.